The grandfather of Ben Needham, who went missing 21 years ago on a Greek holiday island, has joined a major search operation and said he could not believe the support they had received from local people.
Eddie Needham was assisting Greek and British police officers searching land close to the farmhouse on Kos where Ben went missing in 1991.
Ben, from Sheffield, vanished after he travelled to the island with his mother and grandparents, Eddie and Christine, who were renovating the building in the village of Iraklise.
Local people have joined the operation and Mr Needham said although he found it difficult to return to Kos he was ‘pleased’ he had.
Mr Needham said: “I would like to thank the Greek authorities for their investigation and South Yorkshire Police for their support.
“I also can’t believe the support we’re getting from the local community.
“Can I please thank the local teachers, council workers, factory workers and everyone who is giving up their own time to volunteer to help.
“I have in the past found it hard to return to the island but today, seeing the efforts being made by everyone, especially the search team, and seeing the support from all the media, I was so pleased.
Despite a number of possible sightings and a range of theories about what happened to Ben, no trace of the youngster has been found.
His mother, Kerry Needham, 41, of Ecclesfield, has consistently said she believes her son was abducted and is still alive but she has supported the new search.
The British team, led by Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, of South Yorkshire Police, is understood to be about 18-strong and includes dog teams and a forensic archaeologist.
Their search will focus on the grassed mound which is near a farmhouse next to the one Ben’s grandparents were renovating in 1991 and where the youngster was last seen.
One theory is that it is building material which was dumped at the time the toddler went missing and the youngster could have been accidentally buried beneath it.